2021 NLDS
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2021 NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers

How They Got Here: Atlanta Braves

For the fourth consecutive year, the Atlanta Braves are division champs. This year was among the most impressive, as they lost MVP Candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. to a torn ACL that occurred in early July. In addition to Acuna, the Braves were without starting pitcher Mike Soroka, Marcell Ozuna hasn’t played since May, and his leave was extended through the postseason. For the Atlanta Braves, the division at that point looked bleak, and they could’ve rolled over the division to the likes of the Phillies, or perhaps the Mets, but they had other ideas.

You know replacing Ronald Acuna Jr. at the deadline was impossible. You just cannot trade for a player that can replicate what he brings to the table. However, you can replicate the areas in which he produced, and that’s what General Manager Alex Anthopoulos did. They first traded for two power hitters in Joc Pederson and Jorge Soler, with the hope that they can replace the 35-40 home runs Acuna would’ve probably hit this year. Then they realized they needed to make up for the loss of runs batted in, and turned to none other than the National League leader at the time, Adam Duvall, who they acquired from the Marlins. The Braves clinched the division last week after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies.

How They Got Here: Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers were a good team for the entirety of the season. They started off incredibly hot, but their offense began to stall a bit towards the middle of the season. Much like the Braves re-did their outfield at the trade deadline, the Brewers made a lot of moves to fix their infield. They traded for first basemen Rowdy Tellez, third basemen Eduardo Escobar, and shortstop Willy Adames, all have contributed significantly and are a reason for the Brewers success. The other reason? Their pitching. The Brewers rotation is headlined by Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta.

Along with Willy Adames, the Brewers relied on guys like Avisail Garcia for run production after Christian Yelich forgot how to hit. What they lack in offense, they make up for big-time in pitching. And that is why this series is going to be so exciting: you’re getting power pitching on power hitting, something has to give. However, the Brewers will be without one of their best bullpen arms. Relief Pitcher Devin Williams fractured his throwing hand during the team’s celebration after clinching the division title.

Pitching Matchups, Impact Players, & Prediction

The Braves will be sending Charlie Morton to the bump this Friday to open up the series. Game two is reserved for Max Fried. Game 3 will be Ian Anderson, and Huascar Ynoa would ideally start a game four. The Braves could have started either Fried or Morton for game 1, but ultimately chose the postseason veteran. In 14 starts since the All-Star Break, Fried has pitched to a 1.74 era. The schedule, regardless, will allow both Fried and Morton ample amount of rest before what would be a game 5. The Braves’ back end of their bullpen features set-up man Luke Jackson (31 holds, 1.98 era, 70 strikeouts) and closer Will Smith (37 saves, 3.44 era, 87 strikeouts).

While Manager Craig Counsell has not yet announced his rotation for this series, one has to imagine they lead off with Cy-Young candidate Corbin Burnes, who pitched to MLB best 2.43 era this year, becoming the first pitcher in Brewers history to win the league ERA title. You have to figure they’ll follow Burnes with Brandon Woodruff, and then Freddy Peralta. In a game 4, I would expect Milwaukee to turn to Adrian Houser or Eric Lauer, with Burnes available again should there be a game 5. The Brewers have an excellent bullpen and should be alright without Devin Williams. They have Brad Boxberger (23 holds, 3.34 era., 83 strikeouts) as their setup man followed by the punishing Josh Hader (34 saves, 1.23 era, 102 strikeouts)

Impact Players for the Braves: First Basemen Freddie Freeman (.300, 31 HRs, 83 RBIs, .896 OPS), Third Basemen Austin Riley (.303, 33, 107, .898 OPS), Second Basemen Ozzie Albies (.259, 30, 106, 40 doubles, 20 SBs), and Center fielder Adam Duvall (.228, 38, 113 with Miami and Atlanta).

Impact Players for the Brewers: Shortstop Willy Adames (.262, 25 HRs, 73 RBIs with Rays and Brewers), Right Fielder Avisaíl García (.262, 29, 86), Third Basemen Eduardo Escobar (.253, 28, 90 with Diamondbacks and Brewers), and Infielder Luis Urías (.249, 23, 75).

Ryan Schwager and I are tag-teaming these MLB postseason series previews. Here are each of our picks: 

Evan: Brewers in Four. This was a really tough pick. The Brewers have a great rotation that’s tough to beat in a best-of-three series unless you have a prolific offense. The Braves have a prolific offense, but I see the Brewers pitching showing up and dominating. If Atlanta falls down 0-2 in the series, you have to put your faith in Ian Anderson and Ynoa, which is not ideal.

Ryan: I’m going with the upset – Braves in four. I’m all for that Brewers pitching staff, but as a team, Milwaukee struggled down the stretch going 14-15 in September/October while the Braves went 18-11. Atlanta’s bats are hot, and they have been playing meaningful games every day leading up to this series. Keep in mind, this team was one win away from winning a National League pennant last year. I think they’ll steal one in Milwaukee, and that home-field advantage will be wild for two games.

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